Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Big East, big challenge for USF
By Dick Vitale
I really believe one of the toughest college basketball coaching jobs in America is at South Florida. Just think about what Stan Heath has to face in the Big East. There are Hall of Fame coaches in Jim Calhoun (Connecticut) and Jim Boeheim (Syracuse). There is superstar coach Rick Pitino at Louisville. Jay Wright of Villanova and Bob Huggins of West Virginia have conference contenders this season.
Then go down the line and realize Georgetown, Marquette, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh & where does it end?
This season, Cincinnati, Seton Hall and St. John's all figure to be better. It is not a piece of cake trying to build that program. Heath has been working hard, but it is a major challenge.
Saying all that, look at what South Florida has done in football. A dozen years ago, this program didn't have a football. Coach Jim Leavitt has done an amazing job. Just look at last weekend, winning in Tallahassee against a Florida State team with momentum following a blowout at BYU.
Leavitt didn't have superstar quarterback Matt Grothe, who is injured and out for the rest of the season. Grothe has been the heart-and-soul of the program, a key since he put on the school's uniform. They go with a freshman, B. J. Daniels from Tallahassee. He wanted to play for the Seminoles, and there was pressure playing there in enemy territory.
All Daniels did was lead South Florida to a dominant performance. It was a great win, but that is nothing new. During Leavitt's tenure, there was a win over a top-five West Virginia team, plus big wins over Pittsburgh, Louisville and Auburn also on the resume.
Congratulations to Leavitt on another huge win. Check out the calendar and mark down the Cincinnati at South Florida game later this month -- it should be a special showdown in the Big East.
If Leavitt can get it done, Heath has a chance to win. He just needs to get a couple of blue-chippers every year and his roster could look like solid gold.
Heath is selling his program to potential recruits. He can use football as a positive, something Billy Donovan did a great job with at Florida. He sold the Gators as something special, creating excitement on weekends in Gainesville.
Oklahoma does a great job of selling football to the hoop recruits as well. You have to utilize football in a positive manner.
South Florida fans had to be happy with the success on the gridiron. Heath is trying to make things happen in hoops.